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Connecticut dentists deliver access message to Congress

May 11, 2012

By Craig Palmer, ADA News staff

Washington—Connecticut dentists delivered an access to care message to Congress during the May 7-9 Washington Leadership Conference, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) commended their efforts.

Access: ‘It’s really about understanding need,’ Rep. Rosa DeLauro (2d from left, D-Conn.) tells WLC visitors Dr. Gary Dubin, Dr. Carolyn Malon, Dr. Mark Desrosiers and Mrs. Susan Desrosiers. ADA News photo by Stan Barouh.

“It’s really about understanding the need,” Rep. DeLauro told WLC visitors to her Capitol Hill office, Dr. Carolyn Malon, Connecticut State Dental Association president, Dr. Mark Desrosiers, CSDA president-elect, and Dr. Gary Dubin, who heads the dental grassroots “action team” in her congressional district. WLC dentists represent “action teams” in congressional districts throughout the country.

“You’re doing the right thing,” Rep. DeLauro said, articulating a personal preventive care message on oral health literacy, sugar consumption, unmet need and the capacity for oral hygiene “wherever you go in my house,” a message that resonated with her visitors.

Access to care permeated messages carried to the Hill by more than 300 dentists and state dental executives as they met with their senators, representatives and congressional staff during the annual springtime conference. Some 450 registrants from 49 states, the District of Columbia and Canada included 47 who said this would be their first WLC.

Rep. DeLauro’s visitors cited “significant improvements in access to and utilization of children’s oral health services” in the state from Medicaid-CHIP HUSKY Program changes that included “a significant increase in provider reimbursement for children’s services,” and they urged her support for legislation pending in the U.S. House of Representatives to increase access to medically recommended dental care for low-income individuals.

Rep. DeLauro is the ranking Democrat on the House appropriations subcommittee for health and human services. She thanked the Connecticut dentists for offering data to support their arguments. The data included a report on children’s dental services in the HUSKY Program prepared by Connecticut Voices for Children under a contract between the Department of Social Services and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, with a grant from the Hartford Foundation to Connecticut Voices for Children.

“If the state’s going to do its part, it’s our turn to step up,” Dr. Desrosier said of the profession’s response to the state’s program enhancements.

Speaking of the legislation pending in Congress, he said, “There are dentists willing to provide care for free. They need someone to coordinate that.” H.R. 4091, the Coordination of Pro Bono Medically Recommended Dental Care Act, would authorize grants to coordinate dental care of medically compromised low-income patients by volunteer dentists. “It’s going to fund the screeners,” said Dr. Dubin. “This (legislation) will not enrich us,” Dr. Desrosier added. “But it will get patients to us.”

Other WLC dental delegations scheduled meetings with their representatives, senators and congressional staff to discuss access to care in a varied context of dental benefits, fluoridation, Medicaid, medically recommended dental care, military dental services, taxation of dental devices, volunteer and charitable dentistry and House and Senate legislation.